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How to Run a Marathon - Dynamic Warm Up and Cool Down

In last week’s blog I wrote about the basics of planning to take on a marathon (here’s the FreeRange Fitness plan); looking at the race terrain to help you get mentally and physically prepared and recommending good running shoes. I also promised you some tips on how best to warm up and cool down before/after training.

Dynamic Warm up & Mobilisation

Tempting as it may be to just get on with your running by popping on your shoes and heading out the front door this might not be giving you the best start to your run and increases the chance of picking up an injury. But at the same time, you shouldn’t stretch cold muscles, so warming them up is critical.

With temperatures still below 10C, no-one is going to complain about getting warm, but doing a dynamic warm up is still essential even when the big yellow ball in the sky comes back again. Any time you do any exercise - all your runs, any strength & conditioning and all cross-training - should start with a warm up.

A dynamic warm up is a series of mobilising movements with the aim of moving a joint through its full range, without resistance. It is designed to raise your body temperature and heart rate, prime your nervous system, and increase your range of motion. It prepares your cardiovascular system for exercise, increases blood flow to your muscles improving their efficiency. It also incorporates stretching to increase the length of your muscles, aiding flexibility. And lastly it warms up the synovial fluid that lubricates your joints allowing for smooth movements.

  1. Start by mobilising your joints working from your ankles through the knees and hips. Make sure you do both sides.

  2. The next step is some light aerobic exercise to begin to increase your heart rate and warm the body. This could be some body weight squats, curtsy lunges or high knees, slowly picking up the pace.

  3. Finish with some dynamic stretches to activate and improve the range of motion of your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, iliopsoas (hip flexors), adductors, abductors, gastrocnemius and soleus (calves) – the primary running muscles. Try some lunges with rotations, a posterior step with a knee tap, a swinging squat rising onto your toes and finally some extended leg swings and toe touches to stretch those hamstrings.

We have just recorded a video of these warm-up drills. It's our first ever YouTube video - so please Like and Share and give us your feedback on what other exercises you would like to see.

You should now be ready to run and get the most out of your miles.

The Cool down

When you have finished your run/workout don’t just stop and collapse on the sofa! It’s important to let your body cool down slowly; bringing your heart rate and breathing back to resting levels gradually to stop you feeling light-headed or dizzy. It will also help prevent blood pooling in your legs, reducing soreness and lactic acid being trapped in your muscles.

After your run/exercise do about 5 mins of slow jogging or walking to bring your heart rate down gradually. This is a good the time to stretch - lengthening and relaxing your muscles. If you are doing static stretches don’t bounce or go beyond the point of tightness (stretching shouldn’t be painful); each stretch should be held for 15-30 seconds and remember to do both sides.

  1. Either lying down or standing stretch the hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes. You will need to stand to stretch both muscles in the calves, and your hip flexors (low lunge)

  1. If you have a little more time, then indulge yourself by adding in some stretches for your adductors (butterfly pose) and your core/lower back (hip and back stretch).

  1. Once or twice a week, we recommend doing 30 minutes to an hour of running-specific yoga stretching and conditioning - it counts as cross training for injury-prevention, as well helping to relax and unwind.

When it comes to race day you will also need to warm up and cool down properly to make sure you hit your race time goal and can enjoy your success the following day.

Next week I will focus on running nutrition – before, during and after your run.

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